Slatest PM: Kerry Looks to Close the Deal in Geneva

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 12 2013 4:34 PM

Slatest PM: Kerry Looks to Close the Deal in Geneva

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John Kerry and Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov give a joint press conference in Geneva during their meeting on Syria's chemical weapons, on September 12, 2013

Photo by Larrry Downing/AFP/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Geneva Talks: Washington Post: "Secretary of State John F. Kerry demanded Thursday that the Syrian government keep its pledge to give up its chemical weapons arsenal and warned that talks with his Russian counterpart cannot become a delaying tactic. Appearing before reporters alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry said that 'achieving a peaceful resolution is clearly preferable to military action' to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities. But he said it was 'too early to tell whether or not these efforts will succeed.' ... Kerry spoke after Assad said in a Russian television interview that he was willing to cede control of his country’s chemical weapons — but only if the United States stops threatening military action and sending weapons to Syrian rebels."

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What Kerry's Looking For: Associated Press: "Kerry will be testing the seriousness of the Russian proposal, and looking for rapid agreement on principles for how to proceed with the Russians, including a demand for a speedy Syrian accounting of their stockpiles, according to officials with the secretary of state. ... Kerry, accompanied by American chemical weapons experts, met for about 45 minutes with Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria and was later meeting with [Lavrov]. ... One official said the U.S. hopes to know in a relatively short time if the Russians are trying to stall. Another described the ideas that the Russians have presented so far as an opening position that needs a lot of work and input from technical experts."

The Challenge: New York Times: "The task of coming up with a verifiable plan to inspect, control and dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons during a civil war is daunting. Though Obama administration officials have said the problem of Syria’s chemical weapons has been discussed with the Russians for more than a year, the two sides have not yet talked about the problem in detail. For example, the United States and Russia have yet to compare intelligence on the size of Syria’s chemical stocks, their main elements and their locations. American officials have declassified."

It's Thursday, September 12th, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @Slatest.

Kim Jong-Un Has Everyone Worried Again: CNN: "Satellite images of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility have again raised questions about whether the country has restarted its plutonium production reactor -- regarded by western experts as a key component in the development of a nuclear weapon. Researchers from U.S.-based groups examined satellite images from August 31. They showed two columns of steam rising from a building, believed to house the reactor's steam turbines and electric generators."

Colorado Floods: Reuters: "At least three people have died in flash flooding unleashed by torrential rain in Colorado which has forced hundreds to flee to higher ground as rising water made buildings collapse and stranded motorists in their cars, officials said on Thursday. Heavy downpours drenched Colorado's biggest urban areas, stretching 130 miles along the eastern slopes of the Rockies from Fort Collins near the Wyoming border south through Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs. ... At least 6 inches of rain has fallen on the city of Boulder and up to 8 inches were measured in the foothills west of town, said Kari Bowen, a Weather Service meteorologist in Boulder, northwest of Denver."

To Infinity: USA Today: "For the first time, a human-made object has left the sun's realm behind and ventured into the vast space between the stars, scientists announced Thursday. The record-setting spacecraft is NASA's scrappy Voyager 1, which launched in 1977 and edged into interstellar space on Aug. 25, 2012, according to recent data. ... Voyager's feat is a first, but the claim that it has finally tiptoed past the border to interstellar space is not. For a decade, researchers have trumpeted the spacecraft's arrival at one new cosmic boundary after another, and in March scientists presented data arguing that the ship had reached interstellar space in August 2012."

Hawaii's Sugar Crash: NBC News: "A massive spill of thick molasses has turned Honolulu Harbor into a watery wasteland, with divers reporting that thousands of fish have been suffocated and environmentalists calling it a disaster. ... A pipeline running from storage tanks to ships spewed up to 233,000 gallons of molasses – enough to fill one-third of an Olympic-size pool – into the water on Monday. The shipping company, Matson Navigation, said the leak was repaired on Tuesday, but there's nothing it can do to clean up the mess. ... The thick substance swamping the harbor and turning the water brown has already wreaked havoc with marine life."

Measles Fears: CBS News: "Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, but anti-vaccination beliefs may be playing a role in bringing the disease back, a new government report suggests. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated more than a decade's worth of data on measles cases ... and found that most patients had not been vaccinated. ... While measles is harder to come by in the United States, the CDC notes it's still a worldwide public health problem that can be brought over to the country and spread to Americans. One CDC expert pointed out that a measles infection can linger for four hours even after the infected person is no longer in the vicinity."

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate

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